Savea named Lions captain

Julian Savea is Wellington's new captain.

The right wing will lead the Lions for the first time, when they meet the mighty Canterbury at Westpac Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Wellington wing Stu Wilson once captained the All Blacks on a tour to Britain, but typically skippers are found nearer to the action.

But with No.8, and regular captain, Brad Shields out with a knee injury, Lions coach Chris Gibbes has turned to the team's elder statesmen. The 27-year-old Savea's only played 26 games for Wellington, since his debut in 2010, but he's a man that all the players look up to.

"I didn't hesitate when Chris asked me to lead the team and I consider it a real privilege. Some great players have gone before me and hopefully I can do the role justice against Canterbury," Savea said in a statement.

After being left out of the All Blacks' squad for The Rugby Championship, Savea's attitude and output have been closely monitored in recent weeks. But far from sulking or appearing disinterested, the 54-test veteran has been a model professional.

"Julian has stepped up to the mark over the opening five matches on and off the field. He has led by example with his effort on the field and his contribution in the team environment has been a big factor in the results of our young team," Gibbes said.

Lock James Blackwell, who captained the team to a win over Hawke's Bay, and returning tighthead prop Jeff To'omaga-Allen would've been other captaincy options. 

To'omaga-Allen is back from his latest training stint with the All Blacks and pushes the highly-promising Alex Fidow back to the bench. Blackwell shifts from lock to blindside flanker, as part of the reshuffle caused by Shields' knee injury, while Asafo Aumua's return at hooker is another of the noteworthy changes in the pack.

The big absence in the backs is that of centre Wes Goosen. He's been in terrific form, but remains troubled by the rib injury he suffered in Sunday's 37-35 loss to Tasman. Thomas Umaga-Jensen takes Goosen's spot.

Canterbury and Wellington haven't met since 2014. The red-and-blacks were 46-12 winners on that occasion and must be favoured to do similar again.

They lead the provincial premiership standings by three points from North Harbour, after winning five-from-five so far this season. Wellington have won four of their five games and sit atop the championship ladder.

Wellington team to play Canterbury: Ben Lam, Julian Savea (c), Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Regan Verney, Malo Tuitama, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Mateaki Kafatolu, James Blackwell, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Sam Lousi, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, Asafo Aumua, Tolu Fahamokioa. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Sitiveni Paongo, Alex Fidow, Will Mangos, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Sheridan Rangihuna, Dan Kirkpatrick, Levi Harmon.

Photo by: PHOTOSPORT (Caption: Julian Savea will captain Wellington against Canterbury on Sunday, from the right wing)